In some ways, this past week in Oak Bluffs has been a period of reviving old traditions and renewing old friendships. Illumination Night and the fireworks are events that give the Island its distinctive character, unity of spirit and encourage generations of families to return again and again.

The election of Ulysses S. Grant as president of the United States in 1868 gave birth to the idea of a celebration that included a torchlight procession through the streets of Edgartown. Everyone would be invited to attend and to “illuminate “ their cottages during the procession. The Chinese lanterns that have become physical symbols of this exciting night came from traveling sea captains who traversed all over the world. One year later, this event was brought to Oak Bluffs — and here we are in 2022.

The annual fireworks display organized by the Oak Bluffs Firemen’s Civic Association was in peril in 2012 and they were almost cancelled. Michael Pickrum called in February of that year to ensure that his visit to Oak Bluffs coincided with the fireworks schedule. He was told by Anita Billings that collections from the public would not cover the costs and cancellation was imminent.

Mr. Pickrum was the chief financial officer at BET Networks and he made arrangements to sponsor the fireworks for that year. Droves of people carried beach chairs on Kennebec avenue, blankets and strollers in tow, and all pressed peacefully toward Ocean Park, displaying their fondness for this event. Gio’s pizza lines were long as people waited patiently for a pie or two; no slices on fireworks night. And here we are today. Give when you can to support this Island standard!

African American fraternities and sororities were founded in college largely because of discrimination at other Greek organizations and to create community. The Deltas, Kappas, members of Sigma Gamma Rho and Omegas, spread out all over the Inkwell Beach in large numbers with the Alpha Kappa Alphas hosting their famous Pinkwell beach party. Hoping to see more Alphas next year.

These chapter, college and “line“ reunions are reminiscent of traditional homecoming weekends that take place each year on college campuses in early fall. Food, music, Greek fashion, stories of friendship and fellowship abound. The on-Island gatherings continue on porches, in side yards and at cottages throughout the week. The sandy beaches represent the proxy for the college “yard.” Thousands convene for these Greek gatherings! See you next year!

The Boston chapter of The Girlfriends, Inc. hosted their fabulous lobster fest, seating over 150 at Deon’s, with the after-party on the lawn of Cindy Carter. Sigma Pi Phi, known popularly as the Boule, hosted their gathering at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. The Boston chapter of National Association of Guardsmen convened twice this past week. Danilo Avalon and Ron Walker were gracious hosts to members, wives and potential new members.

The collective presence of these individuals and events are drawing national media attention to many of our organizations and gatherings. This past Tuesday, 60 Minutes came to Farm Neck to interview Julieanna Richardson and the History Makers. The following morning The Today Show interviewed Caroline Hunter and other members of The Polar Bears.

The long arc of history and the evolution of people and events in Oak Bluffs must truly be astonishing to Ms. Jakki Hunt of Nashawena Park as she celebrates her 90th birthday this August. She came to the Island in the summer of 1943 and recalls when Circuit avenue had wooden sidewalks. She married Ben Hunt in 1953 here on the Island and has led a remarkable life. We salute her tenure as the first female president of the Martha’s Vineyard branch of the NAACP, where she served for 13 years. Congrats to Jakki and her family as they gather to celebrate her life.

Paradise on earths living the Vineyard experience! Enjoy it as life is fleeting.